NEW YORK – Anyone flying to the U.S. will soon need to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19, health officials announced Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirement expands on a similar one announced late last month for passengers coming from the United Kingdom. The new order takes effect in two weeks.
COVID is already widespread in the U.S., with more than 22 million cases reported to date, including more than 375,000 deaths. The new measures are designed to try to prevent travelers from bringing in newer forms of the virus that scientists say can spread more easily.
The CDC order applies to U.S. citizens as well as foreign travelers. The agency said it delayed the effective date until Jan. 26 to give airlines and travelers time to comply. The order comes as the Trump administration abruptly shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots to more people. Cases and deaths surged to alarming new highs.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a series of major changes to increase supply of vaccines, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots. Administration officials describing the new policies conveyed a notable sense of urgency.
One change will have some teeth to it. Azar said going forward the federal government will base each state's allocation of vaccines partly on how successful states have been in administering those already provided.
“If you are not using vaccines that you have the right to, then we should be rebalancing to states that are using that vaccine,” Azar said at news conference.
That won't happen overnight, not until officials try to sort out whether lags in reporting could be the reason for what appears to be subpar performance. Currently, the government allocates vaccines based on state population.
Azar also said the government will stop holding back the required second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, practically doubling supply. Both those shots require two doses to achieve optimum protection.
Additionally, Washington is urging states to immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems.
The move to increase the supply of vaccines better aligns the outgoing administration with the new Biden-Harris team. On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden said he will rapidly release most available vaccine doses to protect more people. He said he supported immediately releasing vaccines that health authorities were holding back out of caution, to guarantee they would be available for people needing their second dose.
Initially the government had been holding back second doses as a safety precaution against potential shortfalls in production. Now, officials say they are confident the needed supply will be there. And people needing a second dose will have priority.
3 Democrats positive after lockdown
Within a span of about 24 hours, three House Democrats announced they tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that last week's insurrection at the Capitol has also turned into a super-spreader event threatening the health of lawmakers and their staffs.
Those who tested positive were among dozens of lawmakers who were whisked to a secure location when pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.
It's not certain where and when lawmakers caught the illness, but the Capitol's attending physician notified all House lawmakers of possible virus exposure and urged them to be tested. Dr. Brian Moynihan said members who were in protective isolation last Wednesday “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
The three Democratic lawmakers directed their anger toward some House Republicans who were also in the secure room and declined opportunities to wear masks, despite their role in blocking the spread of COVID-19.